The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has confirmed that it remains open for business, to ensure producers and processors can continue to operate effectively and keep supply lines open.
In a statement released tonight, the Department is taking all of the precautions necessary to protect its staff and its clients, consistent with HSE advice, but is remaining open for business, prioritising the delivery of essential services to farmers, fishermen and the food and forestry sectors.
The Department is taking necessary steps to ensure:
· that producers and processors can continue to operate effectively and keep supply lines open
· that the Department can operate as effectively as possible during the current pandemic.
It said that keeping food and other processing facilities operational, ensuring that payments and commercial activities that are necessary to protect farm incomes can continue and that fishermen can continue to land fish and place them on the market, are among the critical priorities for the Department.
In many instances these activities depend on the Department’s ability to carry out its regulatory and inspection functions.
The Department said it is committed to ensuring animal related matters such as payment processing, TB testing, animal welfare inspections, animal identification and passport issuing, BVD testing, controls at livestock marts and animal export certification can continue to enable the business of farming to operate.
Similarly, in respect of agri-businesses which depend on Departmental supervision, inspection, control and certification to operate, the department is committed to providing the necessary services, for example in meat and milk plants, marts, breeding establishments, feed manufacturers and suppliers, egg suppliers, suppliers of animal medicines and other agri-products and in our fisheries harbours.
It also confirmed that the Basic Payment Scheme application date will not be changed. Any delay in inspections or change to the application date may lead to delays in payments later in the year, it advised.
The updating of the LPIS is a rolling process which will go ahead. Farmers will be updated as we proceed.
It also there is no reason for consumers to be concerned about continuity of supply of Irish food and drinks. Senior Department officials met Food Drink Ireland on Wednesday (11 March 2020) to discuss contingency planning for the food processing sector.
Food processors, along with all other businesses and employers, are implementing business continuity plans to deal with possible disruption. There are no food safety implications arising from Covid-19, and there is no evidence that the virus can be spread through food products.
Farmers and fishermen, along with other workers who are required to self-isolate, or are diagnosed with Covid-19, will be eligible for social welfare support. See: https://www.gov.ie/en/campaigns/973806-covid-19-coronavirus-information-for-employers-and-employees/
The Department’s public offices will remain open for the present, but advised farmers to use online, email or telephone services if possible and avoid unnecessary visits to public offices.